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Google versus China

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doug_thompsondougthompson

I admire Google for threatening to pull out of China. The reason for this defiance is particularly interesting.

The notion of “liberty” that motivated the American Revolution was primarily a property right. That’s what motivates Google here.

Google customers have a right to not have their accounts hacked, in Google’s view. This includes Google e-mail accounts. Those accounts are the property of each of Google’s customers. The search engine company had diplomatically and tactfully decided against accusing the Chinese government directly — although the hacking attacks are directed at dissidents and journalists.

The hacking efforts into Google are sophisticated enough to indicate that they have Chinese government support. Now sources are telling news outlets that Google’s offices in China have been infiltrated or at least some people inside the China offices are helping the hackers. The efforts are severe enough to be called an inside job by CNET, a computer news outfit.

Further investigation by the California-based software company found more than 30 other companies were compromised in related activities. The whole thing is large-scale, comprehensive and bears all the hallmarks of central control. They all seem dedicated to preserving the Chinese government’s Internet censorship, known as “The Great Firewall,” according to the New York Times.

China’s responded by saying that other companies will fill the void if Google leaves. Google’s market share is not huge. A Chinese search engine is dominant. However, it’s notable that most of the business done by Google revenue-wise is sales of advertisements on Google, bought by Chinese business interests. I don’t expect the rest of the world to stop using Google because China demands the right to hack into anybody’s e-mails. In fact, I’d expect Google’s commitment to customer rights — proven by a willingness to pull out of a major market over the issue — would benefit Google.

Incredibly, these events have encouraged still more drivel about how business should stay “engaged” in China to “encourage” the Chinese.

It’s been an article of faith that a free market would lead to more political freedom. It’s an idea that China has been single-handedly disproving over the past 30 years. The Chinese don’t give a wee little damn about world opinion and haven’t for decades, if not centuries.

The chilling lesson taught by recent Chinese history is that capitalist prosperity and tyranny are not mutually exclusive. Even more chilling, it presents a continuing case study that the two might be mutually beneficial.

You hear a lot of well-intentioned comments about China moving at its own pace. We should be patient, we’re told. That’s bull. Nobody has won a waiting game with the “Middle Kingdom” since Confucian philosophy outlasted the Qin Dynasty.

This “wait, things will be better tomorrow” attitude has accomplished nothing while our trade deficit to China and our government debt to China makes it politically impossible to stand up for human rights there. We sold ourselves and the Chinese people down the river. Now China’s the only entity capable of buying all the debt we want to get into.

Capitalism will not lead to liberty if capitalism has to kiss the ring of tyranny to stay in business, or if capitalism offers willing, able and satisfactory alternatives to standing up for something as basic to capitalism as property rights.

Let me put that another way: If capitalism can’t protect its own property, how can it ever lead to — or even contribute to — advances in rights for anybody else?

Three cheers for Google, the greedy sons of guns. At least they care about something enough to risk being perceived as impolite.

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